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Planning/Outlining Chapters

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Archinist, May 1, 2020.

  1. Archinist

    Archinist Hαn Sαlsæd First

    Jun 30, 2019
    Holy Terra
    If you have a particular method of outlining/planning a chapter, from the dialogue to the imagery and scenes, character development and plot advancement, what is it?
  2. Silirt

    Silirt Minister of Magic DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Sep 19, 2018
    I like to keep a roughly consistent chapter length. In my current series, all my chapters are at least 3500 words. I've already read the tryhard-purist comments to the tune of 'make your chapters exactly the length they need to be, no more, no less', and I don't shoot for that because it's not practical. With the pace I set for myself, I already know how quickly I need to proceed through a chapter when I start writing it. I need to know what I want to accomplish with the chapter before I start writing it; usually it's plot advancement, because that's something I want to have going most of the time, while the character development is more opportunistic.
  3. Frickles

    Frickles First Year

    Apr 30, 2020
    My chapter outlines are pretty short, perhaps 150 words. Here's the one from my current chapter:
    "Dumbledore/Amelia convo
    Amelia/Weasley convo
    Lucius snubs Greengrasses, then he and Draco prepping to plant the diary
    Neville's birthday party – Daphne and Harry spend time together, Astoria's treatments are in danger
    Harry starts taking family heritage more seriously
    Harry's broke, needs money – enter Gilderoy Lockhart"

    What I always do, though, is outline at least 7-10 chapters in advance. That way, I don't get distracted or lose 'control' of my storyline; even when I have tangents (which is often), I can maintain a narrative cohesion.
  4. Lindsey

    Lindsey Minister of Magic DLP Supporter

    Dec 1, 2010
    Seattle, WA
    I have several documents stored away, such as:
    - World building/Research
    - Spells
    - History

    As well as one large outline document.

    I consistently add to it when I get a new idea or else I will forget about it. You can't plan a multi-chapter fic only in your head. There is too much to contain and think about. If you don't start writing it down, details will get lost.

    Here is what I've done for one of my already written chapters. It's usually longer than this, but I had already written most of chapter two before creating a new outline (as my story changed too much from outline 2), so I didn't feel the need to plot what i've already written.


    Bellatrix and Narcissa bring Harry back where Harry has a conversation with Voldemort. Harry asks him why is he doing all his… why he kidnapped Harry. After dropping the bombshell that they are similar (I made you), Voldemort starts talking about a ring, and a potential deal. His wand in exchange for a ring made of poison. If he tries to escape, he would die.

    Before he can make the decision, they are interrupted by a Djinn who introduces herself as the Sultan’s Djinn and that they have been invited to the palace in three days hence. As Harry tries to flee afterwards, Voldemort reminds him about the ring and bids him to think on it.

    Rookwood: Harry’s blown off door is getting fixed.
    • A talk on runes, and Djinn. This leads to Harry asking how he knew this, and Rookwood explains that he was an Unspeakable, someone who studies magic. This makes Harry realize who he is.
    • “Why did you join Voldemort?”
      • Blah blah blah study of magic, what makes a hex different than a curse? Intent? No, the Ministry.
      • Why are we letting the government tell us what magic to do?
    To Do
    • Promotion: will be working as an ambassador to the ottomans".
    • Harry realizing who she "saved" was Arthur and by saved, convinced him to go to the burrow.
    • Transitions to hogwarts isnt free and why Harry is there (torture of friends).
    • Voldemort wants Harry to master the basics before going into the lion's den.
    • “I don’t like you Potter. Your not loyal, arrogant and a fool.”
    • Kicks his butt again.
    Lead up to Chapter 3
    • Two days later, everyone is eating lunch and waiting for the djinn.
    • The lestrange Brothers are smoking hookah while the Russian DE is shooting raki. Banter.
    • Chapter two ends with the portkey appearing. Off to the palace they go.
  5. TheWiseTomato

    TheWiseTomato Prestigious Tomato ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

    Nov 11, 2009
    High Score:
    Just fuckin' do it live.
  6. Joe

    Joe The Reminiscent Exile ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter ⭐⭐⭐

    Jan 24, 2008
    Canberra, ACT
    High Score:
    I start writing until the chapter is written. @TheWiseTomato has the right of it.

    Writing is a discipline that all the planning in the world won't make any easier. At a certain point it's time to start wordin' and then hating those words. It's also a discipline where the longer you do it, the more you learn, and the more you realise how little you know.

    I call that the Endless Shore - 'ware getting swept out to sea.
  7. Steelbadger

    Steelbadger Order Member

    Nov 9, 2013
    United Kingdom
    My process usually has (roughly) five stages:
    1. The Idea - Hey wouldn't it be cool if X did Y?
    2. Let the Imagination Run Wild - Oh, and I could do this. Or that. I could throw in a reference to this. It would be really awesome if this other thing happened. This is usually just a bunch of poorly structured bullet points in a doc that are in no particular order and which really only exist so I can write the idea down to cement it.
    3. Make It A Story - At this point, I write a brief plan for the major beats of the story, without making any attempt to break it into chapters. I keep what I can from the previous stage, and insert additional scenes to create a consistent plot thread. I try and get an idea for things like pacing, tension, and character growth as they change throughout the story, and move things around until I'm happy with how that works. This is often still fairly stream-of-consciousness. I often jump back and forwards in the story to make notes for things that need to be established or foreshadowed early. The end result is, essentially, a wall of text.
    4. Break It Down - At this point I go back to bullets. I break up the previous wall-of-text so that one or two major things are happening each chapter. I then create a short paragraph with a very brief description of events (mostly an aid memoir, as by this point the story is coming together nicely in my mind), with the occasional piece of dialogue or description thrown in that I really want to feature. I will also look at the events in each chapter, and try and match the pacing to the planned pacing. This may result in inserting some additional slower scenes here and there to build characters more and give the reader some breathing space.
    5. Write it - At this point I have a strong vision for everything I want to happen, and a good idea of what each an every chapter is meant to be and do. So I go ahead and write it.
    In total, I usually have between ~2-5000 words of various planning stages done before I start writing the actual story. It's pretty light-weight really.

    I aim for chapters to be in the 3000-6000 words range as much as possible, though it depends on the story and the intended pacing.
  8. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter

    Jan 6, 2009
    The South
  9. soczab

    soczab Groundskeeper

    Feb 1, 2016
    High Score:
    I tend not to go for super detailed outlines. Not to say thats good, but i just dont have the patience for it. Either with fiction or even non-fiction like scholarly articles (or my dissertation lol). I tend to not find SUPER detailed helpful.

    Instead, I essentially outline the major 'plot' points I want each chapter to have. Like i'm talking 3-4 bullets. So I know the course I want the story to take, and essentially what major plot points I want covered in a specific chapter.

    Heh and then before I write the specific chapter (or paper if its academic) I tend to pace back and forth 'playing' the whole thing out in my mind for a shockingly long period of time.

    And then I write.

    Probably not the best method but it works for me.